Although it’s unusual and proprietary, the Rollik 557’s Living Link suspension isn’t terribly complicated. I think some confusion about the linkage may come from people thinking that the leaf spring serves as the suspension’s main pivot, which inevitably leads to questions like “Does it feel really harsh off the top?” and “Why not just use a traditional bearing pivot?”
To be perfectly clear, the Living Link does not replace the main swingarm pivot, but instead sits directly behind it, meaning that the leaf isn’t actually bending more than a few degrees as the bike moves through its travel. So the Rollik 557’s suspension really just resembles a DW or KS link. The only difference is that the leaf spring replaces the second bearing pivot found in both of these systems.
The cynical outlook on this linkage is that it’s just another way to get a bike to do basically what a DW linkage does, but Spot claims that the leaf spring offers some distinct advantages.
The first of these is increased reliability. Spot claims that it tested the Living Link to the equivalent of 12 years of daily riding without a single failure. This is obviously way longer than you’d expect to go without servicing a traditional suspension pivot, so the end result is fewer linkage bits to service or replace.
Spot also claims that the Living Link also allowed better optimization of the bike’s suspension kinematics. The Living Link is supposed to keep the linkage progressive up to the sag point, providing a sensitive but supportive feel in the beginning of the bike’s travel. As the bike moves further into its travel, the Living Link flexes and makes the suspension more linear. At the end of the stroke, the Living Link relaxes and the suspension becomes progressive again to resist a harsh bottom-out.
It’s hard to empirically evaluate all of Spot’s claims on the trail, but I will say this: the Rollik 557 rides really, really, well.
While there are arguably other bikes in the trail category that are slightly more efficient on smooth climbs, the Rollik 557 might be one of the best out there when it comes to technical climbing. With the shock left open, the bike strikes a sweet spot between being supportive and active – the rear wheel tracks the ground decently, but the suspension barely bobs when you stand up and stomp on the bike. However, getting on the pedals on really chunky sections did reveal some pedal kickback, which is my only real complaint from my time on the bike.
The bike’s rider-forward geometry helps keep the bike feeling responsive on tight, flat sections as well as climbs. Compared to bikes with slacker seat tube angles, the Rollik 557 feels flickable and playful, even from a seated position. And in contrast to the modern crop of longer travel enduro rigs that really only come alive at speed, the bike’s steeper geometry keeps it fun to ride in all the spots where a bigger bike is less entertaining.
However, the bike still feels completely at home on extended rocky descents. Small bump compliance is decent at low speeds, but the bike truly shines when bouncing over chunky trail at speed. It’s pretty poppy, making it easy to double up rock gardens and hold a lot of momentum. This trait is enhanced by the bike’s performance over square-edged bumps, where it resists getting hung up on all but the biggest of Moab’s awkward sandstone slabs.
In general, the Rollik 557 feels remarkably composed and stable when it’s getting hammered into medium and large hits. I’d take this kind of stability for granted on a slacker bike with a bit more suspension, but given that it feels so maneuverable and playful when it’s not being ridden at the limit, Spot squeezed a lot of capability out of the Rollik 557. I immediately wished I could compare it back-to-back with slightly bigger bikes like the Bronson or Stumpjumper, as I have a hunch it could keep up pretty well.
The Spot Rollik 557 is an impressively capable and well-rounded mid-travel trail bike. This is the first bike that I would reach for if I was going on a long, strenuous backcountry ride, but I think it could pretty easily replace a longer travel bike for plenty of riders that climb technical trails to access their descents. On the other end of the spectrum, the Rollik 557 is efficient and playful enough that it’s still plenty of fun in situations typically outside the realm of long travel rigs.
As a whole, the Spot Rollik 557 is a good time in a wide variety of situations – which, in my book, is exactly what a good trail bike should be.